Kitchen: Buttoned Up

This was supposed to go up Wednesday but work & life has been crazy. My bad.


Last week there was a lot of ground work laying. All sorts of little things that don’t look like anything but need to happen before bigger, more visually impactful things can happen.

Also, there was a lot of shopping. The very expensive, slabby gorgeousness kind of shopping. And then there was a trek through the less glamorous world of LED under cabinet strip lighting. Woof! That is an overwhelming swirl of options. The more I think I know what I want, the harder it seems to nail down.

Since you all were so helpful with the faucet situation (which has been mostly worked out), maybe you can help me whittle down the LED strip options. I’m looking at:

Lots of light. Dimmable. Not too cool. Not too warm. Not crazy expensive. I’d like to use a dimmable power supply, so I can operate them off a Lutron dimmer in the wall.  Suggestions?

Now onto the fun stuff.



This weekend…. oh man. THIS WEEKEND.

Dad came up and it is AMAZING what you can do with an extra set of hands. Especially an experienced set of extra hands.

We went from this –

before buttoning

to THIS –


That my friends would be a soffit all.buttoned.up.

WHAT?! WHAT????!!!

I know.

Do you know?? Do you realize what that means?

That means:

  • ALL of the electric has been figured out, finalized, and run
  • the can lights have been installed
  • the electric & box for the pulley outlet above the island is in
  • the duct work for the exhaust hood has been routed, installed, and sealed

Is the excessive use of capital letters ADEQUATELY CONVEYING MY EXCITEMENT???

This, my friends, is huge.

Installing that single sheet of plywood has literally been in the  making since I broke the tub drain back when I was renovating the 2nd floor bathroom.

Which would put us well over the 2 year mark for me having a hole in this part of the kitchen ceiling. I know.

I walk into what-was-formally-and-soon-will-be my kitchen and, for the first time since January 2012, I don’t see the underside of the upstairs bathroom floor. It’s shocking. And spectacular.

So what did it take to finally push things over that magic little threshold?

Well first, we installed a junction box for the pulley electric.

“Pulley electric? What is this ‘pulley electric?'” Let me explain.

The pulley electric will be an electric outlet on a retractable pulley that hangs over where my rolling island will soon live (mostly).

The thought was – it might be really nice to be able to use my mixer or electric griddle on the island without having to run extension cords which the dogs & I would (invariably) run into. And therefore bring anything that was plugged into it down to the floor with a crash.

To avoid crashing pans of hot oil, the concept for my pulley electric was born.


Also, the old track light fixture used to hang on a box in this hole and I really didn’t want to have to deal with patching it. The hole didn’t line up with where I wanted the recessed lights though, so I had to come up with another solution. Making use of an already existing hole for some added electric seemed like a win-win.

(Yes, I hate spackling so much I crafted a use for this hole mostly because I didn’t want to patch it. It happens to be a pretty ingenious use, if I do say so myself, so lets just pretend it was 100% intentional.)(Which we both know it’s not.)

There was one small, tiny, little problem (of course; nothing is ever simple). The track light wasn’t mounted into a “box” so much as it was held up with paint and PFM (pure f*cking magic). If I am going to be pulling on this cord every day, the pulley electric needed to be in a box that was mounted properly and could take daily tugging. (that’s what she said.)(is that even funny anymore?)(of course it is) The last thing I need is to pull on the cord and bring down my entire kitchen/dining room ceiling because I didn’t mount this box properly.

Everybody likes a properly mounted box. (chortle)

To start, we cut down a box hanger that would span the two joists. The box hangers at The Depot only shrink down to 16″ and there’s 8.5″ between the joists in this bay.

Some tin snips made short work of cutting the two pieces down. Then came the tricky part of screwing the box hanger into the joists using only the 4″ opening for the box.

Luckily, over the years, my tool collection has expanded to include a right angle driver and a flexible shaft attachment. Since the hole was much too small for the drill driver, these attachments made it possible.

The existing hole only needed a little tweak before the box fit like a glove. Pretty easy for such a tight box.

Honestly, this could have been way more of a headache, so I’ll take the little victories whenever they come.

After the pulley electric was secured, we moved on to the range hood ducting.


This involved finding the center line of the stove opening and pulling up the spec sheet for the range hood. The spec sheet showed that the duct work needed to be 1/2″ to the left of centerline.


Then it was just a matter of tracking that point straight up the wall. Yay levels.

Once we knew where the centerline of the exhaust duct needed to end up, it was a matter of tracking back over to meet the ducting we had previously installed above the fridge.

A few sheet metal screws to hold it all together.

Untitled Untitled

And some goop to keep the joints air tight and some strap hanger later –



Ready to exhaust whatever I inevitably burn. YAAAAAAAAY!

This kitchen never had an exhaust hood actually vented outside before. Getting it around all the plumbing and sistered joists of the upstairs bathroom was a trick. But we did it!

After the duct work was done, we pulled a few extraneous wires Dad & I had run but no longer need. No sense in keeping them in the walls if they won’t be hooked up.

Then it was time to cut a hole in some plywood and button her up!


I chose to put 3/4″ plywood (as opposed to drywall) on the soffit because I wanted a solid, secure surface to mount things to. Along this wall, directly under this soffit are going to be 3 – 36″w x 15″h x 24″ deep cabinets. Like this –

Kitchen plan

IKEA sells these cabinets to use above refrigerators but I’m going to use them to create a row of soffit cabs. They’ll be filled with seasonal and party supplies, like the galvanized tubs I only bring out to put drinks in at parties. I’m not worried about getting into them every day. Since I have the height here (the ceilings are just under 10′ tall here), I might as well use that vertical space for storage.

Anyway, because the soffit (refrigerator, according to IKEA) cabinets are a generous 24″ deep, I plan to fill them with LOTS and lots of stuff. Hanging 3 boxes stuffed with 7.5 cubic feet of stuff (each) 10′ in the air off a single back rail with 2 tiny little machine screws into the sides of the cabinets makes me more than a little nervous.

I want to provide support in the front. I’ll use the same metal hangers IKEA puts in the back of the cabinets but mounted on the sides through the top of the cab instead. Through the top of the cabinet and right into THIS FABULOUS 3/4″ PLYWOOD.

That I have. Mounted on my ceiling.

Basically, this means I can almost install the upper cabinets. HOL.Y.CRAP. I never thought that day would come.


Sarah’s making some pretty kick butt progress on her tiling. She’s a fiend. Go check out everyone else who’s linking up too. It’s so fun to see everyone’s progress. 🙂

Posted in kitchen | 9 Comments

Kitchen: Please Stand By


please stand by

I have a super long post about all the wicked awesome progress made this week but it’s not done yet and I’m late for work.

This evening, my friends. This evening. A thousand apologies.

In the meantime, go check out Sarah (and all the other kickass people that are renovating their kitchens. Her post that is undoubtedly on-time and full of progress.

Posted in kitchen | 6 Comments

Kitchen: The Perfect Slabs


So Sarah is going to regale you with how “epic” her little tiled backsplash is?

All those perfect little white rectangles. That’s cute.

I see your lightweight, ceramic rectangles and raise you two giant slabs of soapstoney awesomeness.


drops mic

Oh you want to see more?


1.5 of these beefy slabs will one day (soon)(ish) be gracing my kitchen.


Drool away. I won’t judge. They’re my new favorite thing – ever – and are only possible because of my amazing, generous, wonderful, spectacular parents.

Soapstone has been my counter of choice for this kitchen remodel since before I started the project (in 2012). It’s gorgeous, dark, honed, velvety, period-appropriate deliciousness. Back then I had my sights locked on mostly the DIY slabs.

You can cut soapstone with normal woodworking tools and, from what I’ve researched, get very nice results if you’re careful when doing it yourself. The labor cost savings are pretty significant and the only way soapstone fit in my single homeowner budget.

The reality of managing slabs of stone ourselves was something I routinely downplayed and thought I had nearly convinced my father we could totally handle 800+ lbs of stone ourselves. Without breaking, miscutting, or generally screwing any of it up, of course.

I say “thought” because the holidays and my birthday brought cards with little slips of paper in them that read things like, “Good for 1 slab of soapstone for the nook” and “Oh heck. Good for the rest of the soapstone too.”

freak out gif

Excited. Humbled. Thrilled. Grateful. Looking forward to not killing my father’s back. All those things. So, let me – very publicly – say:

THANK YOU, MOM & DAD!!! You call it enlightened self-interest. I call it ridiculously generous and awesome. Tomato tomahto.

The mission continues to move forward towards counter install.

Last Week | This Week

Drywall is getting spackled and this thing is awesome.

It’s a drywall sander that hooks up to your shop vac. I would recommend using your shop vac and not, say, your normal household vacuum cleaner because you were – perhaps – too lazy to walk up to the 2nd story and bring the shop vac downstairs. The drywall dust may cause your household vacuum to suddenly shut off and stop working.

Granted, it’s not as awesome as this but only $26 and takes up a lot less space on my tool rack. I’m still totally thinking about buying that power sander though.

The 36″ base cab doors, drawer fronts & side panels are all getting painted.


The island is up next but can we focus on this for just a few more seconds?


Sigh. It’s so completely perfect. Now…if I could just buy a faucet already…

What have you guys been up to? We know what Sarah’s been doing!

Posted in kitchen | 18 Comments

Kitchen: Holy Sh!t Just Pick a Faucet Already


My march towards templating has reached that point where decisions need to be made. Decisions that should/could/would have been made a long time ago if I 1) wasn’t completely difficult or 2) liked what normal people like.

Instead I find myself in a barren wasteland of “most people don’t want that”, “manufacturers won’t make that because there’s no demand,” “hate to say it but you might have to compromise”, and “as my wife tells me, sometimes you just have to get over it”. Thank you, Sales-People-of-Plumbing-Stores-Across-NJ. You have been oh so helpful.

All I want in a facuet is:

  • uncoated, unlacquered, raw brass
  • probably single hole but maybe a 2-hole bridge
  • a sprayer
  • goose neck with classic lines with a utilitarian slant
  • that’s affordable

Is that so much to ask for?

Apparently it is.

I found an affordable, single hole, raw brass faucet that I actually DO like – no sprayer.

Phylrich, Single Hole Bar Faucet

I found a brass faucet with classic, utilitarian lines, and a sprayer. It’s got a clear coat that would have to be stripped off to make it uncoated brass. Annnnd it costs $684 +tax before I even strip it.

Kohler, Essex Faucet (K-8763)

This sexy ass brass bridge faucet by Perrin & Rowe. Uncoated is a special order. 2 month lead time. $1500. HA!


If I could ADD a sprayer to anything or change the color of a polished nickle or oil rubbed bronze faucet to raw uncoated brass, a significant number of options would open up. The internet tells me you can strip the clear coat off of a brass faucet but I don’t know if that goes for faucets with other plated finishes. My guess is no but I have a couple calls out.

I still don’t completely understand why manufactures don’t sell an under the counter diverter add-on so you could add a sprayer to faucets without them. This probably highlights my glaring lack of plumbing knowledge but I still feel like this is a problem that should have been solved already.

I also need to pull the trigger on fun things like under cabinet lighting but I feel like the faucet is more important.

As it relates to moving the mission forward – I need to know what faucet I’m doing so that they can cut the holes in the counter. I hope to go pick out counters this weekend and schedule the templating. A few more things need to happen before they actually come to template but I’m getting close.

The island is in pieces but there is a plan. Plans are good. Action is being taken on said plan. Pieces and materials are being sourced. Most of the angle iron for the base is cut and the castors have been purchased. Now I just need to learn to weld and weld it all together. Minor details.

The side cover panels for the 36″ base cabinet have been fabricated, dry fitted, and prepped for painting.

Never mind that I haven’t actually painted them yet. That will hopefully happen this week. Along with painting the doors & drawer fronts that go with it. And the toe kick drawer. Then everything can get installed.

(except for the upper cabinets that will hang on the wall above it. minor details.)

The blind got drywall.

And corner bead. BAM. JUST LIKE THAT.

Now it “just” needs tape & mud. And sanded. And mudded. And sanded. And mudded. And sanded. You know, my favorite thing ever to do. #sarcasm

I feel like there was more but this is all I took pictures of. And, as we all know, if you don’t document it, it doesn’t count.

So that’s where we’re at this week. Steadily moving towards templating. Obsessing over faucets. Dreading the spackle. Ya know, the usual shiz.

Now go see what Sarah’s up to.

Posted in kitchen | 27 Comments

Kitchen: The March Towards Templating


As I mentioned last week, the current goal is to get the counter templated and 3 things have to happen first. Sink cabinet. 36″ base cabinet (by mantel). Island.

Last week I got the sink cab doors on and the stiles fabricated. This week, I was able to add some blocking behind the joist hangers.

Before | After

This is honestly probably overkill but why not? Adding the blocking allowed me to get the last 2 screws in the joist hangers and it didn’t take all that much effort.


I also got the inside completely painted. (Although I think I am still going to put some clear sealer on the 2×4’s, like there is on the laminated plywood.)



And the stiles installed for good. Once the tip out trays arrive, I can install them and be done with building this cabinet.

Speaking of which – last week there was a question about tip out trays. Tip out trays utilize that wasted space in front of your sink, behind the dummy panels. The ones I got look like this –

tip out tray

They’re Rev-A-Shelf’s Slim Stainless Steel Tip-Out Tray, although I found them for a lot less on Amazon (not Prime though, so no 2-day shipping. boo). They come in stainless steel & plastic in regular & slim depth. I went slim & stainless but your situation my be better suited to something else. They haven’t arrived yet, so hopefully they’ll work as promised. Growing up, my parents have always had these at their sink, so it seemed like a no brainer to install them here.

In this tiny kitchen, every square inch matters. I loathe unused voids. Ditching the soffit. Tip out trays. Toe kick drawers. Maximize, maximize, maximize.

Unsurprisingly, I decided to add toe kick drawers to the 36″ base cab by the mantel.


Last week I wasn’t sure whether or not I wanted to put forth the time and effort. Slapping on a toe kick and calling it DONE seemed so easy. And then I realized I’d always glare at that wasted 900(ish) cubic inches. Exactly zero people are surprised by my decision to take the time and do this.


I did these a little differently than the other 2 base cab toe kick drawers, so I’ll write about that separately. But I built them. And they are spectacular.


I also have the beginnings of an island.


This piece needs the most work but there’s some metal fabrication that needs to happen next. I’m in a bit of a holding pattern until I can get that bought, cut, fabricated & installed. Soon though. Maybe this week.

In the meantime, cutting the side panels for the 36″ base cab is my next item on the list. It’s not going to be an easy cut but, if I can be patient, hopefully they’ll come out OK. Or at least OK enough not to have to redo them.

Once those are cut, primed, painted & installed, the 36″ will be ready to template and the only thing left will be the island.

And some drywall work in the blind.

Does it ever end??



Sarah is totally going to kick my ass. She’s so much farther along than me. Let’s see what she’s up to this week.

Posted in Uncategorized | 9 Comments

Kitchen: More Cabinets!

Welcome back to another episode of DUELING DIY! (DUN duh DUNNNNNNNNNNNN!!!!!!)


As I mentioned last week, I waffle between going chronologically with these posts and just jumping in with where things are TO.DAY.

I’m feeling the real-time update TO.DAY.

Mostly because I actually did stuff to the kitchen last week. (Look at me go.)

So. Where were we?



Ah yes. The kitchen was mostly looking like that.

For such a massive project, I find it’s helpful to break it down into smaller chunks. Focus on those. Then move on.

Right now the goal is to get all the base cabinets in so that the counters can be templated.

Because once the counters can get templated, the counters can be installed. And then I can have Mike The Plumber back to install a little something I like to call – running water.

While I enjoy the giant size of the “sink” I’ve been using, having it so low to the ground is rough on my back.


Anyway. Counters. Needs them.

Before I left for India, I had 3 main sections of base cabinets left to do – the sink cabinet, the base cabinet going to the left of the mantel, and the island.

Sink Cab
This “cabinet” was mostly built. I just needed to put the doors on and build some stiles for the tilt out trays. Ahhh fun words like ‘mostly’ and ‘just’. They seem so simple. Straightforward. Easy. Quick.

I use “cabinet” because we didn’t build this sink cab like normal people would build a sink cabinet. Or any other cabinet for that matter.

We’ll come back to how this sucker got built another day but here’s some pics from this past week.

Because the “cabinet” isn’t stock, there aren’t those handy pre-drilled, “put the hinges here and it will all line up perfectly” holes. This is how I manage.
Untitled Untitled Untitled

Luckily, IKEA hinges can be adjusted in all 3 dimensions. It’s my saving grace when things aren’t dead-on accurate. (Which is most of the time.)


Once the doors were fitted, I needed to make stiles for the upper fronts.


A bit of poplar later –


And a couple days of priming & painting the pieces.


Yes, that’s a Christmas tree out. Don’t judge.

Since templating is on my mind, I needed to get cracking on the last 2 sections of base cabs. Only problem is – I hadn’t actually bought them. Which is how I found myself braving the swarms at IKEA mid-afternoon on a Saturday.

I was in & out in 2 hours. Considering the Elizabeth IKEA is basically hell on earth on Saturdays but especially in the afternoons, I’m feeling pretty good about my IKEA skills. The thing I always forget though a little is how much STUFF 4 cabinets equals. 4 cabinets (3 base & 1 upper) came out to 45 pieces and 433lbs.



To load into the truck. Out of the truck. Up the stairs. And into the house. By myself.


If the snow wasn’t there, I would have just driven up on the sidewalk. But this cut it down a little.

Sunday was a whole mess of base cabinet back & forth.

The original plan to have drawers in this 36″ base meant it was going to look like this –


I had measured. I knew it would come out past the window. I didn’t realize how much of a bad idea that was until things were assembled.

After a good sized pity party and more space planning, I decided to ditch the drawers and do shelves in this cabinet instead. Which meant cutting it down even more wouldn’t be a problem.


MUCH better, right??

So now to the island. And actually installing the sink cab bits. And actually installing that 36″ base. But maybe I want to put a toe kick drawer in that one too? So.MUCH.TO.DO.

But things are moving! And that’s all that matters, right? RIGHT?!

Sarah’s been sick with the flu and she’s still kicking my butt. Tell her to send those kitchen elves over here. Mama needs some running water already.

Posted in kitchen | 5 Comments

Kitchen: Speaking Up About Laying Pipe


Fire be damned! The kitchen must move forward!! CHARGE!!!!!!!!!

The tricky part about this kitchen renovation is juggling between the past and present. The project started in 2012 but here we are in 2014 and it’s still ongoing. I’m left torn between wanting to jump right in and show you where things are now. Which I kind of did a couple weeks ago. And wanting to show you what it has taken to get to this point.

Today, we are going to rewind to July 2012. Back when 6″ of cast iron pipe was completely ruling my world.

So annoying.

Before beginning demo, I knew the drain stack for the upstairs bathrooms went down this corner but that little 6″ elbow jutting out to the left was not part of my schematic. As I lamented a couple years ago, this messed with pretty much every part of the kitchen plan because it pushed the entire wall of kitchen to the left 6″. When you’re only dealing with 120″ of kitchen, that’s kind of a big deal.

After whining about it for a post, I decided to put on my big girl panties and call the plumber to move it. At the time, $500 felt like a huge investment to make in 6″. Looking back, this was one of those – duh, why is this even a question? – things.

The plumber came out and used one of these pipe crackers to crack the cast iron pipe. Not a DIY project. (Well, I guess it could be but these suckers are expensive.)

That was pretty cool.

I was hoping that he could ditch the useless T & maybe even get the whole stack back a little closer to the back wall.


(The underside of the bathroom floor. You can see the joist we had to sister together.)

He mocked up the PVC pipe and installed it with rubber connectors at the top & bottom to the old pipe.



The pipe clamps tightened and, wham bam thank you ma’am, it was in.

Just like that.

They left and I sat there staring at it.

It just didn’t look right. The pipe looked a lot farther to the left than I expected it to and it didn’t look like I had gained all that much room.

So I measured. And I was right.

I only gained a couple inches.

Well crap. I just spent all that money. It wasn’t what I wanted. It didn’t turn out like I thought it would. Even worse – I told my plumber it was great. I told him I was happy with it. Now that he had left and I measured, I wasn’t.

I felt foolish. Why wasn’t I more clear with what I wanted and expected? Why did I say everything was perfect?

I sat on the floor, staring at this brand new $500 PVC pipe, and had my own private pity party.
And then I called my father. Mostly to whine.
And he listened. Like most fathers would.
And then he said what most normal, rational people would have just done from the beginning.
“If you’re not happy with it, call Mike (my plumber) and tell him. I’m sure he would much rather fix it so you’re satisfied.”

We hung up and I let my embarrassment linger for only a moment longer before kicking it to the curb and picking up the phone.

Now, before we go any further, I must say that I love my plumber but bedside manner is not his strongest of suits. He comes off as gruff and old school. His hands are calloused and seemingly permanently stained from decades of fixing things. He points out mistakes but offers solutions. He isn’t shy about telling you what should be done, how it should be done, and why. Even when he’s super busy, he always makes time for urgent calls (like when my boiler wasn’t working). He knows his clients and he’s fair. I like him (and wouldn’t call anyone else) but he can be a bit brusque.

“Mike? It’s Carrie. I know you JUST left but I’ve been sitting here staring at this pipe and it’s not right. I needed it to be further to the right.”
“I thought you said it was great.”
“I did… But it’s not.”

After far less grumbling than I expected, he turned around and came back.

At this point, I have NO idea how he’s going to fix it. I am not wrapping my brain around the twists and angles needed to get from point A to point B and still get the pipe to hug the back wall of the house.

The drain from the bathroom upstairs is a fixed point. The cast iron pip that continues down into the basement is a fixed point. And I want the whole thing to move to the right about 3″. I’d want to kill me too.

Mike came in. He stared and pondered for less than 3 minutes. Grumbled only a little.

“Because the top & bottom pipes don’t directly line up, you have to have this bend in it. Do you care if it’s at the top? I could flip it upside down. That puts the long run of pipe as far back as possible but then you’ll have the bends up at the top to connect upstairs.”

Nope! That worked just fine. The long run was taller than my fridge, so I could figure that part out later.

A few twists to loosen the pipe clamps around the rubber connectors. The entire PVC portion of pipe lifted out. Flipped upside down. And got clamped back in place.

And just like that it was perfect. For real.

Now go see what Sarah’s up to!

Posted in kitchen | 10 Comments